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Celebrating Black History Month with Dr. Duke

Celebrating Black History Month with Dr. Duke

As North Oaks celebrated Black History Month, several of our employees shared their inspirations in Black culture.

Dr. Marquinn Duke, medical director of our Shock Trauma Program, found inspiration in a Black Louisianan, Dr. Vivien Thomas. 

Thomas, who was born in 1910 in Lake Providence, Louisiana, worked in a medical lab most of his career. Despite never obtaining a medical degree, Thomas developed several cardiovascular procedures that saved lives in the 1940's. He battled racism and socio-economic hardship throughout his life.

Those struggles never pulled him away from pioneering in the medical field. 

Dr. Duke said his life is inspirational.

“A little while before I started medical school, I happened upon the movie called, Something the Lord Made. I decided to watch it, as I was getting ready to start my career as a doctor, and the subject matter was focused on medicine,” he shared. 

Thomas developed a procedure in 1946 to improve circulation by correcting the transposition of the aorta and pulmonary arteries. Called an atrial septectomy, he so flawlessly executed it that a colleague remarked, “Vivien, this looks like something the Lord made.” 

Thomas’ medical contributions, which also included developing a procedure to treat “Blue Baby Syndrome,” coupled with the racial adversity he faced during the time motivates Dr. Duke to this day. 

“I found the film remarkable. Seeing what Dr. Thomas had to endure, as well as seeing his contributions to medicine, inspired me,” he remarked. “There were times when I doubted if I could be successful. Remembering his story provided me with a reminder to keep working hard and not give up.” 

Thomas never graduated from college but was later given an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  

To learn more about Dr. Duke, click here.